MoD seeks more cash in weapons row

Wednesday January 5, 2000

The ministry of defence was in urgent talks with the treasury yesterday to secure more money after leaked army documents claimed that British troops in Kosovo were issued with inadequate equipment.

John Spellar, the armed forces minister, admitted yesterday that the army was facing financial problems and blamed it partly on the Tories' defence cuts. "We inherited a horrendous over-run, tremendous problems ... that is putting pressure on the budget."

Though he said there would be an inquiry into the leaked reports - written by Lieutenant Colonel Paul Gibson, commander of the parachute regiment's first battalion, and Brigadier Adrian Freer, commander of 5 airborne brigade - Whitehall observers say the situation has done no harm to the ministry of defence's case in its talks with the treasury.

The Kosovo campaign cost the MoD an extra £100m according to the latest estimates, Paul Beaver, spokesman for Jane's defence publications, said yesterday. However, this is a small fraction of the £21bn defence budget and the treasury is likely to want to know why so much of the army's equipment is unreliable.

Mr Spellar agreed that radios used by soldiers in Kosovo were "requiring repair" and due to be replaced.The MoD was also looking at modifications to the army's new light machine gun, described in the leaked reports as "insufficiently robust". The treasury is likely to question the MoD about its handling of defence estate sales, and about promised rewards from its "smart procurement" policy.

Menzies Campbell, Liberal Democrat defence spokesman, told the Guardian that the leaked reports indicated a deeper government malaise.,3604,118975,00.html

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